WE'RE into week two at the 2018 Australian Open and day seven on Sunday has four matches from the fourth round of the men’s singles on the schedule at Melbourne Park.
Again, two of the three underdogs on my shortlist for Saturday did well, with one five-set loser and a winner in the form of Hyeon Chung, who took down Alexander Zverev.
Chung was just too short in the betting for my liking, so once again the one I did decide on, Adrian Mannarino, wasn’t really close against a superb performance from Dominic Thiem.
For Thiem to play like that after coming back from two sets down in extreme heat the previous match was special from the Austrian, but I still think his price was too short after that Denis Kudla clash.
We lost an exhausted-looking Juan Martin Del Potro in the outrights and only Madison Keys can win for us now as far as outrights go.
Our other bet was a winner though, as Marton Fucsovics produced the dominant win I expected over Nicolas Kicker and covered the -6.5 games handicap.
Although it won’t be sunny on day seven it is forecast to be very humid, with energy sapping conditions of 27C heat and 60% humidity for the players to contend with.
Rafael Nadal vs Diego Schwartzman
Rafa hasn’t played a top-25 ranked opponent in a major since the French Open final, with all 14 of his opponents in that time ranked between 26 and 121 at the time of the match.
On Sunday Nadal faces 26th ranked Schwartzman, with the Spaniard’s last clash with a 26th ranked opponent being the Wimbledon loss to Gilles Muller last summer.
So, for me it’s a little early to be calling a Nadal/Federer final just yet, and it’s certainly a little generous of the layers to give Schwartzman an 8.5 game start on the handicap in this 15:00 (approx.) local time (04:00 UK time) clash on Rod Laver Arena.
Switching from playing a night match to a day match is never easy and I certainly wouldn’t be reading too much into Rafa’s win over a half fit Damir Dzumhur either, with the Bosnian struggling physically so far this year.
In his last day match Nadal only beat Leo Mayer by a total of six games and of his last 12 matches at the Australian Open Nadal has won only three by 8.5 games – against the hopelessly outmatched Victor Estrella Burgos, a half fit Dzumhur and Marcos Baghdatis last season.
I think it’s fair to put Schwartzman in a better class than that and Nadal didn’t even cover +8.5 against Schwartzman at the US Open of 2015 either, despite winning in straight sets.
The Argentine is clearly a far better player on hard courts now than he was in 2015, with that loss to Nadal in New York being only Schwartzman’s 12th career match on outdoor hard at main level.
In the 2017 US Open he made the last eight, despite suffering an injury in the process of beating Lucas Pouille, and he also defeated Marin Cilic in that tournament, so Diego’s not to be underestimated on a hard court.
His hold/break total is very decent at 108.3 (77.2% holds/31.1% breaks) over his last 25 matches in the past 12 months on outdoor hard and that’s a good 15% better than Mayer as an example.
Indeed, only Nadal (118.1), Cilic (108.9) and Nick Kyrgios (110.1) are better than Schwartzman of those in action today, so the Argentine is ahead of the likes of Grigor Dimitrov, Kyle Edmund and Pablo Carreno Busta on those stats.
He was also only beaten by Nadal on clay by a mere eight points in total by the Spaniard in Monte-Carlo last season and importantly for Schwartzman he’s now got matches under his belt this year after early losses in Brisbane and Sydney.
You have to say ‘too good’ if Nadal comes out and plays superb tennis to win this easily, but it seems a tall order to give away that many games to a player of Diego’s quality, so +8.5 on him at 1.90 is the bet.
Grigor Dimitrov vs Nick Kyrgios
The least appealing of today’s matches from a betting perspective is probably the one that most people will want to watch and that’s the night match between Kyrgios and Dimitrov.
The layers haven’t been able to make up their minds who to favour in this match-up, with each man being priced up as favourite twice – this time it’s Kyrgios at a very short-looking 1.61 who’s favoured.
Only two weeks ago in Brisbane NK was priced up as a 2.14 shot to beat Dimitrov and I’m not sure how anyone can trust Kyrgios at a major at that sort of price against decent opposition.
The Aussie sneaked past Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, despite winning two fewer points in the match in the last round, and it looks like only the rather poor level shown by Dimitrov so far this tournament has made Kyrgios favourite here.
That can all change though and maybe Dimitrov will come out and show his best form today and if he does I’d fancy him, with Kyrgios always ready with an excuse when things aren’t going his way.
Against Tsonga it was because he chose to play doubles, and before that it was the knee, the hip, the arm, the shoulder, noisy fans, a not noisy players box and it’s all pretty low class stuff.
Kyrgios has only made two quarter finals in 18 attempts at majors and 1.61 on him making another here is not for me. If I were having a bet here it’d be Dimitrov in the hope that he’ll raise his level or that NK self-combusts.
Elsewhere, Kyle Edmund and Andreas Seppi are both coming off near four-hour five setters and while the Brit is the right favourite I couldn’t trust him physically at a price of 1.38.
That said, Seppi played a lot of tennis the week before Melbourne as well (at the Canberra Challenger, which he won) but the Italian loves conditions here and of course has beaten Kyrgios and Roger Federer at the Open in recent times.
I’d expect Edmund’s forehand to be the key weapon here – if he’s fit enough to hit it for long enough after two five setters already at this tournament – and in energy-sapping humidity that may be easier said than done.
Finally, it’s Marin Cilic versus Pablo Carreno Busta and the extra power of Cilic should be enough to see the Croat through this one and he should have a fair bit left in the tank after relatively comfortable progress so far.
I doubt it will be straightforward though, unless Cilic starts to play his absolute best tennis, which could arrive at any time, and PCB should be a determined and difficult to shake off opponent.
The 3-1 to Cilic appeals here at a price of 3.80.
Sean's best bet
- 2 points win Schwartzman +8.5 games to beat Nadal (1.90, Unibet)